Cookbook Review: Culinary Tea, Or What To Do With All Those Ceylon Gift Tins

Coffee is one of those gifts that tends to fall into the select giving category -- only those friends whom you're certain love the dark stuff will be blessed with a bag of premium roast. Tea, not so much, as those little bags of perky mint and robust Orange Pekoe seem to appear frequently as dinner party tokens and office thank-yous. Figuring out what to do with all that Earl Grey sitting on your pantry shelf, other than the obvious afternoon cup or crème brûlée infusion (but that feels so 1990s?), is the tricky part.

Enter the recently released Culinary Tea cookbook by Cynthia Gold and Lisë Stern. The book is a compilation of 150+ recipes influenced by global cuisine that feature tea. Recipes that can only be described as highly imaginative, yet not in that molecular gastronomy way, so you're actually game to try them on a Sunday night. Well, most of them. Like that curried green tea egg salad with lavender (matcha and lavender tea wind up in the mayonnaise dressing) or the apple-Ceylon tea cake, essentially a tea-flavored pound cake with a pecan-ginger topping.

The first 50 pages of the book are dedicated to explaining the various types of teas, home blending (for those sachets you'll of course be giving again this holiday season) and basic tea cooking techniques for various styles of tea, followed by the recipes.

Not surprisingly, the dessert recipes outnumber the savory offerings -- green tea lime tuiles, mango-peach oolong granita, matcha tiramisu with a lemon-ginger tea geleè. Ginger and citrus are recurring themes as they pair well with green teas in sweets. The meatier recipes slant more toward the black tea direction, like a Lapsang Souchong-braised beef short ribs and steak au poivre et thé (the classic with an Earl Grey-peppercorn rub).

That Earl Grey crème brûlée recipe is here too, but so are more than a dozen other Earl Grey recipes (infused gin, chocolate cake, rack of lamb with Earl Grey jus), so it's easy to forgive. Particularly when you're actually now considering those Oolong-ginger brined roast turkey and Darjeeling-roasted sweet potato recipes. Because it's never to early to think about the dishes that will guarantee a little quality family conversation (for better or worse) at the Thanksgiving dinner table.


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